Today, Alabama voters go to the polls to select who will represent the Republican Party in December’s special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions: conservative Roy Moore or establishment darling and interim U.S. Senator Luther Strange.
No matter who wins today, one thing is certain: “Swamp King” Mitch McConnell and his allies have spared no expense to bolster the candidate who will unquestioningly fall in line with leadership. Rather than saving vital resources to go after vulnerable Democrats in 2018, McConnell’s leadership PAC and allies have spent nearly $10 million to try and stop a conservative from becoming a U.S. senator.
The staggering amount is all the more appalling when you consider that McConnell’s candidate has trailed Moore for almost the entire campaign.
Two recent public polls taken in the wake of President Trump’s Friday visit in support of Strange show Moore continuing to enjoy a commanding lead, despite facing a 5-to-1 outside-group spending onslaught and disadvantage. McConnell has been throwing good money after bad, to try and ensure the fetid swamp stays flooded.
In order to justify the spending, McConnell’s leadership PAC has been pushing internal polling that questionably shows a much tighter race. (For a bit more context, AL.com reports, “The poll also said that President Trump had an 83 percent favorable rating.”) Losing candidates often tout internal polling that deviate from public polling to keep interest and money flowing to their race.
According to FEC data, accessed Monday, outside groups have spent nearly $10 million to either support Strange’s candidacy directly, or oppose Moore’s. McConnell’s leadership PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) is responsible for the lion’s share of that spending. The SLF has spent just over $2 million to bolster Strange and nearly $4.5 million, mostly in negative advertising, opposing Moore. That’s over $6.5 million on a race that is, by all appearances, a loss.
Strange’s latest FEC filing, covering activity up to Sept. 6, 2017, showed that of the $4.46 million Strange had either raised or loaned his campaign, over 28 percent came from political action committees. That means that in addition to the nearly $10 million in outside spending, the K Street lobbying class has dumped almost $1.3 million in PAC donations into Strange’s campaign to ensure the status quo in Washington.
Moore, on the other hand has only benefited from a total of $1.35 million spent on his behalf, or to oppose Strange, and had raised — as of his FEC filing covering activity up to Sept. 6 — only $1.42 million, of which only $5,000 was from political action committees.
The most notable independent expenditures on behalf of Moore come from the Great America Alliance and Great America PAC organizations that are run by pro-Trump individuals. Together, in breaking with the president, those organizations have spent just over $170,000 to help Moore. The Senate Conservatives Fund and Senate Conservatives Action have spent just over $900,000 to bolster Moore, in the final stages of the campaign.
Last wee, Breitbart reported that Drew Messer, a senior adviser to the Moore campaign, estimated that $30 million had been spent by Strange and McConnell’s allies against Moore. The data shown here is what was publicly available as of Monday via the FEC.
Surely by using his network’s resources to vastly outspend those supporting Roy Moore, McConnell believes that Strange would fare better against the Democratic candidate Doug Jones. According to an Emerson College poll (PDF) released on Monday, that is not the case. Emerson found Moore with a 52 percent to 30 percent advantage over Jones, while Strange fared worse at 49 percent to 36 percent.
In addition to the $6.5 million spent for Strange and against Roy Moore, McConnell’s leadership PAC spent $2.4 million against conservative House member Mo Brooks leading up to the August primary. That’s a total of around $9 million that McConnell has spent on this campaign to prop up Strange.
I covered McConnell’s influence in the first round of the GOP primary back in August. At that time, I discussed not only the spending by McConnell but also the ethically challenged way Luther Strange became Alabama’s interim senator in the first place.
Rather than save resources to expand the number of seats in the U.S. Senate to a filibuster-proof majority for Republicans, McConnell has wasted precious resources to ensure he retains power over the Swamp. Given that he has used dubious internal polling to bolster his case for targeting Moore, how will McConnell’s donors react if Strange loses big, as the latest polls indicate? Will those donors continue to give after being duped?
Once again, Mitch McConnell has chosen himself over the principles he pretends to hold. This time, he may have bitten off more than he can chew, and his ability to go to donors to protect himself may be compromised.
Editor’s note: Information regarding the FEC reporting period was edited for clarity.
Robert Eno is the director of research for Conservative Review. He is a conservative from deep blue Massachusetts but now lives in Greenville, SC.